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Ever since Henry Clay nominated James K. Polk as a strong supporter of the annexation of Texas, big things were expected from this House of Representative. James K. Polk was born on November 2, 1795 to a wealthy and influential family in Mecklenburg, Colorado. He was an extraordinary individual who was the last of the Jacksonians to sit in the White House as the 11th president of the United States.
He was a representative of Tennessee for fourteen years as well as speaker of house leading his serve as governor of Tennessee. In the same year he was engaged to Sarah Childress, who he soon married. Polk served in the Tennessee House from 1823 until 1825 during the time he supported Andrew Jackson for the United States senate seat. He continued to support Jackson while serving in the U.S. House of Representative from 1825 until 1839 when he retired from Congress to become governor of Tennessee. Although James Polk has lost a number of gubernatorial elections he still kept his best foot forward eventually making him win the Democratic vice-president nomination as Martin Van Buren's running mate. After fours years he surprises everyone by being the party's choice for the presidency. He supported the annexation of Texas as well as acquisition of California and Oregon. He also became a great supporter of "manifest destiny," meaning the United States western expansion into such areas as Texas, Oregon and California, which spurred a political debate because the territory was part of a disputed boundary between the U.S. and Mexico in 1844. Later that year, he settled a treaty with Great Britain resulting to the acquisition of the Oregon Territory.
"I prefer to supervise the whole operations of government myself rather than entrust the public business to subordinates and this makes my duties very great," says Polk coming into office with a plan and a clear set of goals. John Tyler was the individual who helped Polk reach those goals. One of them was finally achieved on February 1845 when Texas won congressional approval to become a state. The other was achieved when the British minister in Washington rejected a compromise, which Polk offered that would establish the United States Canadian border at the 49th parallel. The Oregon territory was claimed by both Great Britain and the United States, creating loose talk of war on both sides of the Atlantic. Polk's campaign slogan of "fifty-four forty or fight" refers to the latitude coordinates of the territory both countries were fighting for. However neither country really wanted war, so the Britain government finally accepted Polk's original proposal and the Senate approved a treaty that fixed the boundary at the 49th parallel. The reason the Senate and President Polk agreed to the British offer to settle the Oregon question was because new tensions were arising leading to war with Mexico. Soon the Mexican government broke diplomatic relations with Washington as soon as the United States admitted Texas to statehood in 1845. The conflict grew even worse when a dispute developed over the boundary between Texas and Mexico. Texans claimed the Rio Grande as their western and southern border and Polk accepted this claim.
In 1845 Polk sent a small army under General Zackary Taylor to protect Texas from a possible Mexican invasion. In the meantime Americans were also increasing their interest in California, which belonged to Mexico, but Polk still intended to make war on Mexico to acquire that land. In the meantime congress recognizes the war existing between Mexico and the U.S. and raising the resources, money and supplies necessary for the war. Although the vote in favor of war was greater, the reality was that Congress had their doubts, since most northerners believed that the Mexican War was a southern plot to expand slavery into new territories from Mexico. Slavery became an issue for the young president, becoming unpopular to those who supported it. Abolitionists severely criticized him as a tool for the "Slave Power." Polk actually believed that he believed slavery could not exist in the territories won from Mexico, although he refused to approve the Wilmot Proviso that would forbid it there. As a result Polk argued to extend the Missouri Compromise line instead to the Pacific Ocean, prohibiting the expansion of slavery, as well as below the line. President Polk soon became unclear about his priorities and continued to encourage those who demanded that the U.S. take over much of Mexico.
Then on February 2, 1848, Nicholas Trist a special presidential representative for Polk, had finally reached agreement with the new Mexican government with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, by which Mexico agreed to cede California and New Mexico to the United States and acknowledge the Rio Grande as the boundary of Texas. This makes significantly more land mass and territory for the nation.
In conclusion, Polk was one of youngest yet hardest working president yet, referring to some as the "dark horse" candidate or "Young Hickory" because he would spend much time with Andrew Jackson whose nickname was "Old Hickory." Polk reminded the country that he would permit no intervention in the western hemisphere by non-American powers. He demanded that Great Britain cede all of the disputed Oregon Territory up to the 54-40 line during his election campaign. After assuming office, he settled for a compromise that gave the United States land up the 49th parallel. Sadly with every great hero born, eventually comes an end. Struggling with his health, Polk left the white house in 1849. In less than one year after he resigned as President Polk died of Cholera in the state that he governed, Tennessee. Although it's been five years since his death, we will never forget such an honorable man as him and these inspiring words, "Well may the boldest fear and the wisest tremble when incurring responsibilities on which may depend our country's peace and prosperity, and in some degree the hopes and happiness of the whole human family."
- Pletcher , David M. "James K. Polk." Profiles of U.S. Presidents. 2010. Advameg, Inc. , Web. 13 Jan 2010. <http://www.presidentprofiles.com/Washington-Johnson/Polk-James-K.html>.
- Cromex Technologies , . "James K. Polk ." The World Almanac. 2010. Infobase Publishing, Web. 13 Jan 2010. <http://www.worldalmanacforkids.com/WAKI-ViewArticle.aspx?pin=wwwwak-326&article_id=715&chapter_id=15&chapter_title=United_States&article_title=Polk,_James_Knox>.
- The State Library of North Carolina, . "James K. Polk." Encyclopedia. 06/01/2009. Branch of the State Library of North Carolina, Web. 13 Jan 2010. <http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/nc/bio/public/POLK.HTM>.